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New literacy partnership aims to improve healthcare access for patients

13 April 2022

Health Education England has launched a new drive to improve people’s access to health care through better understanding of written and digital information.

Research shows 43 per cent of adults in England struggle to read and understand written health information – when the content includes numbers, the figure rises to 61 per cent.

In addition, healthcare services and advice are increasingly dependent on the internet, making access potentially more difficult for those without technological skills.

To help address these issues Health Education England’s National NHS Knowledge and Library Services team is  co-leading a partnership to improve health and digital literacy at local level.

Working with CILIP (the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals), the initiative is aimed at empowering patients, their families and carers by giving them the tools they need to maximise the health information and digital resources available to them.

Sue Lacey Bryant, HEE National Lead for NHS Knowledge and Library Services, said: “Our goal is to understand the most effective ways to enable people to develop the skills they need to find, assess and use health information to make informed choices in our digital age.

“We can then share and spread these approaches across the country, giving people the opportunity to understand health information better and manage their own health issues.”

Local pilot partnerships will assess how existing information services can embed activities which equip members of the public with the skills they need.

Health Education England has funded an initial eight pilot projects to test out different ways in which this can be achieved, while CILIP is managing and co-ordinating the pilot programme nationally. 

Sue added: “If we are to tackle health inequalities, it’s crucial that communities come together to improve levels of health and digital literacy. There are no organisations better placed to do this than local public and health libraries right in the heart of the communities they know and understand.

“I’m thrilled that we are able to support these eight local projects. They are about to begin work and I’m confident we will get a good return on investment. They will provide a wealth of insight into how library teams can be most effective and we will build on the findings to equip communities to support more people to better health.”

Libraries Connected, the strategic lead for public libraries, and Arts Council England, which supports community initiatives, are also working with HEE and CILIP to develop a sustainable approach to improving health literacy.

The eight projects will begin work soon. More information is available here:-